My grandpa affectionately named the house Hawk Hill because of the majestic hawks that were always gliding over the tree tops. My grandparent’s home was a stunning 3-story, Frank Lloyd Wright-esque abode, surrounded by forest, high atop a hill overlooking the Ohio River. The entire front of the house, all three stories, was solid glass, presenting a magnificent panoramic view. It had a long, winding, serpent like driveway that was treacherous in the winter. In the second turn of the drive, there sat a curious, one room cottage-like shack that had been there since long before my grandparents had purchased the land. It was engulfed by foliage and I was always boggled by its presence, but it was charming none-the-less.
The house, though, was an artist’s dream and I was surrounded by artists.
My Gram was my biggest influence. Her art studio was on the first floor of their home, looking out at the scenery. Her isle, alongside Skipper the Attack Cat (I’ll tell you about him later), bathed in the sunlight that poured in from the huge windows. The space was filled with paintings, sketches and pottery everywhere you looked. And there were art supplies in every nook and cranny. Gram even had a kiln! The kiln may have been my favorite part of Gram’s house.
Growing up, I always looked forward to visiting. I would sit in Gram’s studio and create for hours. I’d paint and draw and make little clay critters, and Gram would fire for me. She still has some of those creations, by the way. I aspired to be an artist, but I wouldn’t dare call myself an artist. That term, in my mind, was reserved for the best of the best, which did not include me. I was after all surrounded by some amazing artists.
When I reached high school I took every art class imaginable. I had a drawing teacher named Dr. Miller (he took the “Dr.” part very seriously), who is still to this day the most ridged artist I’ve ever met. He made the most fluid of techniques a technical process. I did learn a lot from him, though. Still, I couldn’t call myself an artist. I went on to complete a degree in graphic design and work in the field. Still I struggled to say, ‘I am an artist.”
Now in my thirties, and using design in every aspect of my job and personal life, I’ve finally gotten to a place where I am able to claim the title. I am an artist! We all are, in one form or another. We are born to create… design… invent… build… and imagine. Thank goodness, I finally figured it out! Now, to convince my 8 year old that she is also an artist. I wonder if my Gram ever questioned whether she was an artist… I’ll have to ask her.
My grandparents have now retired to Florida. My Gram still has an art studio, though scaled down, where she creates every day. Each time I visit, I raid her studio for art. She graciously lets me take anything that I can get on the plane, which sometimes is a lot! I need a bigger house for all of the artwork that I have acquired.
And, I’m sure you’re wondering about Skipper the Attack Cat… Skipper was a stray that made himself at home when my grandparents moved into that house on the hill. This cat was one bad dude. He was from the streets. He would leave for days at a time and then come home with part of his ear missing, or with a bad limp. I always imagined him with a cartoon bubble above his head saying, “Yeah, you should see the other guy.” They say cats have nine lives, I think he had 27. Skipper scared me! He had no alliances, except for maybe Grandpa. We had to tiptoe by him as kids, because if you ran, or even walked too fast past him, he would literally attack, thus his name. I think every one of us grandkids got a claw in the calf at least once! I think maybe that’s why I am more of a dog person.
Gram in her studio painting a picture of my daughter.